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Remember a few weeks back when we were all crying over the closure of Varsity? Well our fave pub has now been replaced by a swanky new restaurant, which couldn’t look any more up-market than lodged between Portswood’s finest Farmfoods and Pizza Hut takeaway.

Yes, this in Portswood!

Yes, this is in Portswood!

Wild Lime Bar and Kitchen opened its doors to the public on Sunday, and I was lucky enough to go along to the VIP opening night on Thursday to check it out. With immaculate cream window frames and prim plants situated either side of the entrance, the new establishment had class written all over it before I even entered the door.

Upon stepping inside, I was immediately struck by the bright and breezy atmosphere- such a contrast from the dimly-lit pub venue of the Varsity days. With white walls and funky lamps hanging from the ceiling, along with pristine beech furniture, the place has been totally transformed, and now has a pleasantly fresh feel to it.

I felt truly welcome as I was greeted by cheery staff at the door and then ushered to a small table by the window, where the evening sunlight came streaming in. The venue was buzzing: local business people, local residents and students alike had come to soak up the atmosphere of the new establishment. A funk track played out in the background, adding to the swanky ambience.

Waiting staff circulated the room, presenting guests with silver trays of food samples. The workers were young and fresh-faced; wearing branded white T-shirts and nifty waist aprons, along with friendly smiles. “The staff are all lovely and polite”, said Charlotte, mother from Bitterne, who attended the VIP event after signing up online.

The bar itself has radically changed. What was a crummy and decrepit alcohol counter is now an opulent bar with shining surfaces and glistening rows of glasses and bottles spanning the wall. As I waited for my Sunshine cocktail I watched in wonder as the bar staff methodically weaved between each other, serving customers and preparing drinks. They had evidently been well trained, and already seemed to have established an efficient working routine.

The swanky new bar!

The swanky new bar!

In terms of the food, Wild Lime serves a range of popular meals from sandwiches to pizzas to burgers to wraps. Judging by the samples I tried, it is great-tasting, high-quality cuisine. Just the thought of the Duck Wrap now makes my mouth water- a huge step up in quality from Varsity‘s savourless Sticky Chicken option…

And it doesn’t end there. The chunky parmesan chips are top-notch, described by student Emily as “the best chips [she’s] ever had”, while the warm Blue Cheese Doughballs make for exquisite gourmet nibbles. The various pizza options, with their light crusts and succulent toppings, also mean that one can now sit and enjoy a quality pizza in Portswood as opposed to ordering a greasy Pizza Hut to take out. What a treat.

The Wild Lime drinks menu also has a lot to offer, from a lengthy wine list to a wide range of  lagers. A high point of attraction is the jam jar cocktails. Mixed in a jam jar and served in a jam jar- a very novel and quirky concept. They also taste great- if a little strong on the alcohol front (but is that ever a bad thing?!)

Jam jar cocktails- quirky!

Jam jar cocktails- quirky!

BUT while this is all great, a rise in quality means a rise in cost. Wild Lime Bar prices are not extortionate, but they will dent our student bank accounts more than Varsity did. The Straight Up Burger is £7.50, so forget a burger and a pint for a fiver. The Big Brekkie stands at £6.95, meaning that hangover fry up is no longer just a couple of quid. As for the cheapest pint sold it’s Fosters at £2.90, so wave goodbye to the days of £1.99 a Carlsberg…

Nonetheless, manager of Wild Lime, Charlotte, explained that the new business is working hard to offer cheap deals in order to make their products more affordable:

Pizzas are sold two for one from 5 o’clock on Tuesdays (that’s £7.95 for two), cocktails are buy one get one free on Thursdays (£6.95 for two) and we also sell ‘The Speedy Lunch’ pepperoni and meatball pizza for under a fiver at £4.95. We want to ensure that people are aware of the great deals that we offer here.

The real question is- will Wild Lime Bar and Kitchen get the business it needs? It has to be said that opening now, at a time when most students are heading home, seems a little odd. But commercial director, Sarah, is confident that the timing makes sense:

Opening now will enable the permanent local residents to establish their place here before the students arrive back in Fresher’s week. Then we can really start to focus on student needs in September.

Locals are sceptical though. Pensioner and previous Varsity regular, Al, is dubious about the business the restaurant will attract over the summer:

It couldn’t have opened at a worse time. It’s a great place, but me personally? I’m better off going down to Wetherspoons in town for my real ale.

Bitterne resident and grandmother, Jennifer, is similarly hesitant about returning:

The food is delicious, but with a family it amounts to a lot if money. Plus, they have no kid’s menu and no non-alcoholic cocktails. It’s certainly targeted more towards the student population.

So there looks to be a lot riding on the student following of the new restaurant come September. Sarah has spoken of plans to attract students with guest DJs and special rates for societies, as well as running competitions at the start of the year with Wild Lime voucher prizes (keep an eye out- they’re keen to run one with The Tab).

It seems highly likely that students will be enticed by Wild Lime when the new academic year begins after the summer. The quirky ambience and the lavish food and drink will certainly appeal as a great way to enter the new university year in style. The question is- will students have the means to continue enjoying these higher end meals and cocktails throughout the year?

Such a transformation is always going to be risky. As one local lady on the opening night said, the change from Varsity to Wild Lime is “like going from Primark to Reiss”. But one thing is for sure: Wild Lime has all the qualities a great restaurant and bar needs. Now the new establishment just needs to ensure that it caters specifically for the people in its Portswoodesque proximity- even if it means dropping its prices a little.

Follow Wild Lime on Twitter @wildlimebars.

18 Comments »

Leave your response!

  • Dunstan
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    Are you kidding? I went the other day and the food must’ve been made from the cheapest ingredients ever, and the chips came in a paper bag on my plate. Or a box depending on the meal, making it impossible to use cutlery. Retarded.

    For the same money you can get a Peng Burger from the Cellar, which is in a different league of tasty. So much more for your money and with locally sourced beef too, rather than some mass produced shit.

    Reply

    Dunstan
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    I suppose the general presentation was nice though, certainly had you fooled…

    Reply

    joe
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    Amen brudda!

    Reply

  • Rock, Stone, and Two Smoking Barrels
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    We are almost twice the price of this place, and it doesn’t seem to have put anyone off!

    Reply

    PhD
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    Yes but your burgers taste like God’s own holy mince.

    Reply

  • Lime Bar
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    Burn down the imposter!

    Reply

    Rock, Stone, and Two Smoking Barrels
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    Was just thinking it was a bit of a risque name!

    Reply

  • Rock, Stone, and Two Smoking Barrels
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    I think you students are putting yourselves down.

    I’ve been in business in the valley for 18 months, and in our experience, students certainly aren’t the broke, scrabbling for pennies drunkwads you make yourselves out to be.

    Students are certainly some of our best, most polite, tidiest, and powerful customers, and we are VERY lucky to have you!

    Reply

    Danny Dyer
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    I agree, but some students are genuinely completely broke or tight-ass fiends.

    Reply

  • Dunstan Checks In
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    If I was a cynical person I would suggest Dunstan works for the local competition

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    Dunstan
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    How many kitchens have you heard of that allow Orangutans to work there!?

    Reply

    Dunstan Checks In
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    Are you really an orang-utan then? One minute you’re saying it looks ‘sh*t’, then the next you’re saying ‘it looks nice’. Really does smack of someone who works locally…

    Reply

    anon
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    probably an imposter using his name. people do it to me all the time!

    Reply

    Dunstan
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    Presentation and quality of ingredients are two different things. Really does smack of someone who’s never going to be able to get a job, locally or otherwise…

    And for the record, yes, I am a orangutan.

    Reply

  • anon
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    portswood is in serious need of a sports bar with £2 pints again, we’re already spoilt for choice when it comes to food! someone should buy the lot adjacent to Iceland to make this a reality asap.

    Reply

  • snafu-riffic
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    Portswood needs Nando’s for gods sake!

    Reply

  • susu_cat
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    It seems pretty nice to me, the deals are very reasonable.
    My only concern would be it could be like a new phone, it’s all shiney and nice and taken care of, but after a while you put it in the same pocket as your keys and loose change and don’t give a fuck.

    Also, get them to sort the lights out, if you look, the old wiring comes from the roof and about 2 foot of orange cable trails each light as they place it in the location they want, sounds like shoddy workmanship to me.

    Reply

  • Kat
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    Overpriced and too long a wait for food.

    Reply